/played

While playing WoW recently, a friend of mine suggested we all type in "/played" to see how many hours of game time we had logged. To my surprise, I was at 12 days, 8 hours and 17 minutes. That's 296 hours of time. My friend (a stay-at-home dad) then pointed out that he was at 28 days. That's 672 hours of time. Let's say for the sake of argument that a work week is 40 hours long. My friend has spent almost 17 work weeks in WoW (7 and a half for me) since November.

There are a few possible reactions to this. Let me play out two extremes:

1) Fantastic. I wish I could play that much! He must have a great time, uber gear and a bunch of friends.

or 2) Get a life. This is the end of civilization as we know it as virtual communities displace real-world ones. This is Robert Putnam's hypothesis. Expect a radical decline in the quality of existing relationships, more divorces, declining work productivity and, say others, potential addiction.

Now I've spent some time on this issue as part of my dissertation (beware, 11MB file), so I argue that the answer lies somewhere in between and that it varies by person and by game. I have pretty charts and graphs showing, among other things, that a lot of MMRPG play can cause a reduction in real-world travel to visit friends and a slight decrease in hours worked, but has no impact on family relationships. And the fact that many people play 20+ hours a week is now well understood thanks to Nick and others.

Nevertheless, my reaction was still "Holy shnikies! 17 weeks?!" What does all that time do to someone's life? I have seen some commentary on the social implications of online gaming here, but when a game sells 600k copies that fast are we now talking about a more mainstream phenomenon? Will journalists start picking up on anecdotes?


Comments on /played:

Mike Sellers says:

Will journalists start picking up on anecdotes?

You bet. Get ready for another sky-is-falling round of stories like we heard during the heyday of "EverCrack" -- time lost, lives destroyed, atonal music, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria...

Okay maybe not that bad, but yeah, if there's a story about a geek phenomenon that's reaching into the pop consciousness and has a handy downside, you can believe the popular media will be all over it.

Maybe Blizzard should make the time you've played available only as a reward item for a quest.

Posted Feb 2, 2005 3:30:22 PM | link

Samantha LeCraft says:

Sitting at 12 days, 11 hours, and 30 minutes myself, on my main character, which I created on Day 1.

Some people may look at that and say "What are you doing with your life??" On the other hand, I've spent approximately 23 days and 16 hours sleeping since November 23rd and no one seems worried about that.

Personally, all that time spent in WoW has been a wonderful experience for me. My guild consists of real life friends who I rarely got to talk with before we created the guild, but with whom I now speak nearly every night. My husband and I play together, so I can look at my /played time as twelve and a half days we've spent enjoying each other's company.

One man's culture-destroying phenomenon is another's relationship-building godsend.

Posted Feb 2, 2005 3:37:31 PM | link

David Reim says:

>> Will journalists start picking up on anecdotes?

There are only two anecdotes that journalists have picked up on:

1. Suicide blamed on excessive play time
2. Real marriages produced from VW interactions

The differences between journalism and academics is that the former must interest (in order to sell papers) while the later focuses on “study” which may not be interesting to a mass audience (apologies to our academic friends). Therefore, to a newspaper reading audience, the event of a suicide or a marriage is hard to believe, given the lay person’s perception of “play”, and is therefore interesting.

In my personal opinion, what the journalist covers falls into the realm of “public relations” for a particular game or the industry in general. In this case, I believe PR is more likely to sink the ship than raise the tide (take the 80’s coverage of D&D for example). However, the questions that Dmitri asks are the basis for a fascinating emerging field of academic study.

Posted Feb 2, 2005 3:40:53 PM | link

Gordon Calleja says:

How many people spend an average of 3 hours a day in front of a TV ?

A lot.

Now, if we had to really enter into a discussion of what is more useful - being bombarded with (mostly) senseless bollocks while lying passively on a couch, or employing your brain actively in sociolizing and problem solving with people from diverse cultures ?

My partner is one of the people that attacks me most about it, only she s more than happy spending countless hours sun bathing (but at least i m out enjoying the beautiful day) or watching stuff she doesnt even like on TV.

I guess too much of anything is still too much and I must admit that I do get a strong pang of guilt and dislocation from the world if I spend too many hours in a row in MMOGs especially if it bites too many sleep hours or wrose still invades my day.

Posted Feb 2, 2005 4:06:08 PM | link

Andres Ferraro says:

When I ask myself what I was doing during those last [[insert obscene amount]] hours inside UO my reply is always: "I was enjoying a fun time, relaxing with old and new friends and building relationships that last - crossing physical, social and cultural barriers.

For relaxing fun, connecting, reaching out and discovering things I have *huge* allocations of time by personal choice. The online game is just a medium.

Posted Feb 2, 2005 4:12:25 PM | link

Krones says:

You guys with a minimal time investment come across as funny. I have over 400 days invested since I started playing mmorpgs. I racked up 50 days played alone in WoW before it went final, but I have been playing since the first phase of alpha. It's not something I am necessarily proud of, we all have our hobbies and that invested time would of been better spent on something more productive like getting a phd or something, but I don't regret it at all and neither should any of you! :) And if you think that is a lot of time, I have friends with more played time than that. And if you're wondering, I'm not married, but if I was, I would consider it unhealthy :p

Posted Feb 2, 2005 4:24:22 PM | link

SourAaron says:

Compared to the number of hours that golf enthusiasts spend playing golf, or car enthusiasts spend looking at, tinkering with, or attending shows about... cars... the amount of time seems fine with me.

People will focus on the amount of time. But what really concerns them is the fact that having an MMPORG hobby is seen as something of a non-conforming hobby. In other words, it is associated with those D&D nerds from high school, therefore, it is anti-social.

Hopefully, someday, that will change.

Posted Feb 2, 2005 4:29:44 PM | link

Samantha LeCraft says:

You guys with a minimal time investment come across as funny.

To clarify, I, at least, was referring only to my time played on the one character I've played the most in World of Warcraft since launch on November 23rd. I have other characters, and I had quite a few hours logged throughout the betas. Let alone any other MMO. Let alone time logged actually making MMOs. ;)

Posted Feb 2, 2005 4:30:45 PM | link

David Thomas says:

As a journalist, let me respond to a couple of the ideas here.

First off, which reporting beat do you suggest should be writing about this? Of course, news people want death and destruction. That's a goodly amount of what makes news.

If you want the entertainment reporters to write about it, what are they going to say? Lots of people play this game? The "lots of people play" story isn't so new anymore.

What I'm getting at here is that journalism, at least mainstream journalism, is between a rock and hard place with stories like these. We can either spin them as some awful thing or say that it's something new. Both those stories, for anyone who's been writing much about games, don't seem all that interesting.

I'd say that the fact that 600k players are spending loads of time in a game is more akin to the travel section writing: Omaha is a hot travel destination.

Where are you going to go with that?

I'm not suggesting that this is not news, nor that there are no good stories to be found inside these facts. Just pointing out that part of the issue with journalists picking up the story is finding a story that makes sense for all the people who are not playing the game.

In a way, the phenomenon is too big. We still don't know whether all the game play is meaningful or just a new form of recreation.

David

Posted Feb 2, 2005 6:49:46 PM | link

Nick Yee says:

The average American watches about 28 hours of TV each week. Since November 23rd, the average American has watched 11 days and 16 hours of TV.

Isn't it weird that we don't freak out about TV-watching? I mean - when you're playing an MMO, at least you're interacting with other people.

Posted Feb 2, 2005 7:31:33 PM | link

magicback says:

If had a "played" meter for my TV I would have similar "Holy shnikies!" reaction.

So, does having hard data about our habits affect our view of our hobbies? I think so.


Posted Feb 2, 2005 7:51:16 PM | link

Nathan Combs says:

I consume 10 hrs/week commuting, ouch. ...I think the larger point is that we all spend a lot of time in the "friction" of life. And well, if some of that friction is fictional... so be it.

Posted Feb 2, 2005 8:00:25 PM | link

Mike G says:

Everyone has something they do when they get out of work and go home. Some people continue to work, some watch TV, some read, and still others exercise. The point is that everyone does something.

People who don't play MMORPGs rarely understand the attraction to them. Then again there are people I knew 8 years ago who couldn't fathom online chat rooms and meeting a new love or friend online was seen as very strange. Flash forward to today and most of those people are doing what they scoffed at so many years ago.

Society is changing. We no longer need to be on the same block or in the same city or town to build relationships. All in all I think this is a good thing. Knowing people will lead to learning about their culture and that will lead to less ignorance. Less ignorance will lead to more tolerance and we will all get a little bit closer as human beings.

Will MMORPGs lead to world peace? I doubt it but the blending and melding of cultures through any means can't hurt.

Posted Feb 2, 2005 8:20:51 PM | link

Carnildo Greenacre says:

Ten hours a week commuting? As the poster above said, "Holy shnikies!" That's as much time as I spend commuting every four months.

Posted Feb 2, 2005 8:27:07 PM | link

Marshall Astor says:

I try really, really hard not to look at the time played. Something about it makes me question my basic relationship to time, space and the limits of my potential activities within the future unknown period of my lifespan.

Posted Feb 3, 2005 1:22:26 AM | link

Matt Mihaly says:

672 hours. What's the story here? We've got a woman who has put in over 13,000 hours on a single character (she has multiples) on one of our games. I know there are lots of other MMOs with players that have put in that kind of time.

--matt

Posted Feb 3, 2005 4:59:00 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

Krones>You guys with a minimal time investment come across as funny. I have over 400 days invested since I started playing mmorpgs.

You do know that there are people reading this blog who have spent more time writing virtual worlds than you have spent playing them?

If you're going to accuse other people of being dilettantes, make sure you're not one yourself first.

Richard

Posted Feb 3, 2005 5:59:32 AM | link

ren says:

Funny thing for me is that my /play time is really low since xmas and I’m feeling guilty about.

Posted Feb 3, 2005 7:23:20 AM | link

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:

You're in a guild then?

Posted Feb 3, 2005 7:44:18 AM | link

Cory Ondrejka says:

Richard> You do know that there are people reading this blog who have spent more time writing virtual worlds than you have spent playing them?

Although, I'm not sure that as developers we should be bragging about how long it takes to make virtual worlds :-)!

Posted Feb 3, 2005 10:25:26 AM | link

ren says:

Cory > Although, I'm not sure that as developers we should be bragging about how long it takes to make virtual worlds :-)!

Then again, if you just threw them together one wet afternoon ,,,

Posted Feb 3, 2005 10:41:32 AM | link

CmdrSlack says:

I find it most amusing that this is shaping up to be a slapfight as to who is the biggest catass.

Just sayin.

Posted Feb 3, 2005 11:08:27 AM | link

Dmitri Williams says:

One reason I posted this was to take stock of the impact of such a large number of hours on someone who is new to the phenomenon. 600 hours for someone who has spent 5,000 already is of course trivial. To me the interesting questions come when the 600 hours come at the expense of something else that was previously part of someone's life--tv, conversation, work, travel, sleep, sports, magazines, sex, whatever.

A whole separate thread could be devoted to the guilt people feel for playing (or not playing) a certain amount.

Posted Feb 3, 2005 11:40:48 AM | link

Bill the Cat says:

I wonder how much time I have spent typing comments in blogs since November? Hmmm.

As far as reporting this, perhaps a good angle would be the lack of exercise as a result of spending hours a day sitting in front of a computer. People who watch a lot of tv at least get up and move around during commercials, but from my experience the only time I will stop playing a MMOG (until I log off for the evening) is for urgent calls of nature and to get more caffeineated beverage. As we know, lack of exercise exacerbates depression and depresses the immune system. Is there a new generation of depressed sickness-prone marshmallows being created because of MMOGs? Inquiring minds what to know.

Posted Feb 3, 2005 1:02:34 PM | link

Alan says:

My 53.4 WoW Paladin with 262 Weaponsmith is at 12d 8h.

It took me ~24d played to get my Mentalist to hit 50 (the highest level) in DAoC.

I asked two other guildmates last night. One with a 41 Rogue is also at ~12d played. The other with a 57 Hunter is at ~23d played or so. The latter player also told me his 2nd DAoC 50 took only 12d. His first? 50d. He had at least 3 50's in DAoC.

Posted Feb 3, 2005 1:19:06 PM | link

Neil says:

It bothers me much more that I spend 40 hours per week + 8 hours per week commuting + occassional overtime at an empty, unsatisfying job.

I sometimes feel brief pangs of guilt about playing WoW until 1:00 am, but then I realize how silly that is when I'm on the subway train going to "that job" again. What's more pointless and depressing?

Posted Feb 3, 2005 3:15:01 PM | link

Thabor says:


I only feel bad about my /played if I don't feel my progress in game matches up well against it..

As far as development though, you shouldn't get to count "testing" the game in your "creating" account.. And don't forget to count in hours.. For a developer that usually what 80 per week?

Posted Feb 3, 2005 4:08:14 PM | link

Edward Castronova says:

David Thomas> I'm not suggesting that this is not news, nor that there are no good stories to be found inside these facts. Just pointing out that part of the issue with journalists picking up the story is finding a story that makes sense for all the people who are not playing the game.

It's an interesting point. By far, most of the interviews I get are still stuck on the gee-whiz factor. Human interest, 'do you believe those crazy kids - and grownups too!!' type stories. One recent senior editor, during fact-checking, came back with 'Wait. Why would people pay real money for goods that are only virtual?' The gee-whiz factor, in other words, still seems to apply broadly to almost anything happening on the internet. It is both surprising and a little distressing. Big things are happening, so it is surprising. And yet things are happening fast, so it is distressing. It's not good that the public is still at about 1997 in terms of awareness. Politicians (judges too) are probably a few years behind that.

Anyway, I don't dare type /played. Don't want to know, because my user style is incredibly inefficient. I hate seeing how much time I have invested for so little avatar capital.

And BTW, I don't share the view that time in MMORPGs has the same normative weight as time playing golf or watching TV. It's rather more like time spent in another country - a new culture. It's not significant that people spend their time playing golf rather than tennis. But it is significant that they spend time in New York rather than LA.

Finally, as for the Putnam thesis (that modernity is gradually breaking down civic space, isolating everyone): I think of synthetic world technology as a reaction and resistance to the forces of isolation, not a contributor to them. As traditional civic space erodes - just think about this - we have to PAY MONEY to immerse ourselves in environments where being an active community member is necessary to advance.

Posted Feb 3, 2005 4:20:31 PM | link

Matt Mihaly says:

Thabor wrote:

I only feel bad about my /played if I don't feel my progress in game matches up well against it..

Why? Aren't you there to have fun?

--matt

Posted Feb 3, 2005 5:35:35 PM | link

Krones says:

R. Bartle>You do know that there are people reading this blog who have spent more time writing virtual worlds than you have spent playing them?

If you're going to accuse other people of being dilettantes, make sure you're not one yourself first.
--------------------------
I didn't mean to come off as being rude, superior, bragging or ignorant. I was mainly trying to lighten up the mood from some of the above replies before I posted. My train of thought at the time was, well if I reply with my played time, but hide the fact when I started playing mmorpgs overall, maybe they wouldn't feel as bad for investing that time into playing a game. Because that was the impression I was getting from some of the posts. And I apologize to anyone if I came across sounding like a prick.

I'm very well aware of some of the wonderful developers that share their thoughts and opinions on this blog and I feel that terra nova really is a true gem that I'm even lucky enough to read. I wouldn't even consider myself in the same league of some of the developers that post here or a lot of the regular posters as well. In fact, it took me awhile to even start posting recently after lurking for over a year. Afterall, I'm just a young man living in a rural town in Nevada that doesn't even have a college education.

Ass kising aside, I honestly do have a high respect for not only you and Koster, which I do consider to be some of our forefathers of the genre, but many others here. However, I must add, you and other developers get paid in some form for what you do or it ties in directly with your careers. Maybe that wasn't the case when you first started out, but I'm sure you have made a living off virtual worlds in some form for awhile now, that's enough justification to keep doing what you're doing. If I was able to support myself doing what I loved, I would gladly make it my life and invest much more time, as many of you are doing so.

Posted Feb 3, 2005 5:38:47 PM | link

Julie says:

Games are popular and only getting more so. I've seen articles about the industry now earning as much as film. And as the details become more important to more people there will be plenty more to report on... ranging from new releases and innovation to legal issues (as addressed in this forum) to social issues (see Dibbel's Rape in Cyberspace story) to... well Hell. Who knows? I think it could get positively Gibsonesque with certain players and virtual personalities becoming celebrities. Maybe a more full sensory gaming experience? I can't wait...

I've been playing MMOs for 3 years now and I'm glad to say they replaced a Law and Order addiction I had. I'll take virtual interaction over tv any day of the week. It's my way to unwind.

The odd thing... the place where I've gotten the most grief for my playing is from my husband's friends. My husband is a developer for console games. He and his friends (all game folks) in San Francisco have made never ending fun of me for playing Everquest and Lineage and SWG and WoW. They sort of put down MMOs as being 'lightweight' gaming for people who can't play games that are actually 'difficult' (like Halo and the Myst series and console games in general). Naturally I disagree. And they respond with a sort of incredulity when I point out the numbers of people playing and the amounts of money good characters go for on mysupersales.com. Still... I definitely get an 'MMOs are so uncool' vibe.

Has anyone else had this experience? Personally I think it's partially due to the semi-cheesy EverQuest ads at the local mall. And maybe some sort of disdain for their past D&D playing selves...

Posted Feb 3, 2005 7:27:45 PM | link

Thabor says:

"Why? Aren't you there to have fun?"

What do you think is fun? I tend to enjoy both achievement, and exploration. Progress in the games (leveling) is almost a direct measure of how much content you have access to enjoy. The ratio of the playtime to my game progress is a fairly direct measure of how well I am doing as far as both achieving and exploring. If my /played is disproportionately large compared to my progress then I'm probably spending too much time backtracking, or using ineffective strategies.

You might make a similar inference from people who feel their /played time isn't large enough that they may be more social players who feel they are neglecting in game relationships.

Posted Feb 3, 2005 7:51:05 PM | link

Adam Miller says:

"They sort of put down MMOs as being 'lightweight' gaming for people who can't play games that are actually 'difficult'"...

I cannot imagine that attitude from people making games that you complete in 16-20 hours.

I play console games and when I'm done two days later, I'm left wondering what the hype is about. As a result, I relegated the XBox and the PS2 to my 6 and 10 year old a while back. They really enjoy it because almost all the games are so simple that they don't get overwhelmed with sophisticated controls, storylines, dialog, or gameplay commonly associated with other types of games. Many of the games have the typical "short attention-span theater" style graphics and gameplay that goes along well with their taste in Cartoon Network, too. They really like Halo 2, MechAssault, and Crimson Skies currently.

Whose games are lightweight again? Perhaps you can pass that feedback along to hubby... :-)

Posted Feb 4, 2005 2:01:34 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

Krones>I didn't mean to come off as being rude, superior, bragging or ignorant.

Hmm, I think I probably did! I apologise for that... It's just that I felt your post was a little "tsk, the youth of today, come back in 5 years when you've lived a little more".

>Ass kising aside

Feel free to do more!

>However, I must add, you and other developers get paid in some form for what you do or it ties in directly with your careers.

That's right, we do. That generally means that these days when we do play, it's not for fun (or at least not for the same kind of fun as it is for regular players). As to why/whether that's significant, I was planning on starting a topic about that soon, so I'll hold fire for now...

Richard

Posted Feb 4, 2005 4:38:28 AM | link

Marty says:

Regarding the TV breaks vs. MMOG breaks, TV has ads, WoW has gryphon rides. I usually get up and throw some darts for those.

Posted Feb 4, 2005 8:13:06 PM | link

magicback says:

Marty> Regarding the TV breaks vs. MMOG breaks, TV has ads, WoW has gryphon rides. I usually get up and throw some darts for those.

Not to get off topic, but I was just wondering about the equivalence of repetitive ads vs. repetitive content: something to skip?

Back to topic, how much of /played time is spent on these repetitive contents or AFK?

Posted Feb 5, 2005 12:14:59 PM | link

Neil says:

Now that I think on it, WoW is filling the same role as TV for me in some ways. WoW is just turned on while I go about some Real Life(tm) activities and only gets about 10% of my attention at times.

For example, my /played time probably includes a lot of time where I was on the phone while my WoW character was fishing on a beach or dock. Fishing is a mindless activity in the game, so why not do it while doing something more involved at your desk in RL?

Other things I do in WoW while multi-tasking in RL that inflate /played time:
- browse the auctions (while I'm cooking dinner)
- find interesting places to emote (while on the phone)
- fish
- set my character follow a stranger until they break down and ask why I'm following them
- inspect other characters' equipment

WoW > TV

Posted Feb 8, 2005 11:01:42 AM | link

Yaka St.Aise says:

About MMORPGS being "lightweight" and not "difficult" enough to deserve consideration from single/MP players/designer.
I feel it's very true ...to a point.

Stricly speaking, no commercial MMOG I've come across so far can by tagged as "deep" or "difficult" if played as intended, while "long" and "tedious" can apply to most.

I suspect the grind-based design of most commercial MMOGs and the holy "balance" obsession play a big part in making pure time investment a all-encompassing substitute for the skill, practice (and more rarely smarts) many single/MP games request from players.

In this sense MMORPGs as game design craftwork rank pretty low indeed.

Now, as playgrounds and game enablers, the actual player experience in MMORPGs can end up being way more deep, meaningful and smarts/skill dependant than most single/MP games out there (on any platform), but that's usually more a testimonial to the players' willingness and ability to make the best of their playing time than to built-in "cool", "clever", or "fun" factors in the game design.

Not to say it is not possible to come up with commercially successful MMOGs design that would actually be good games on their own, but I came to think about online worlds games as "platform" rather than "genre" over the last few years - to the point I now regard the "game" label merely as a way to set users' expectations about the mood and intents of the online world they're joining, rather than a descriptive label of its featureset.

Posted Feb 8, 2005 9:21:00 PM | link

Niclas says:

Can i restore my played time? It's fucking embarrsing.

Posted Mar 4, 2005 12:59:54 PM | link

ef says:

My lvl 46 night elf rogue @ 18days+ > you.

\m/ 0,o \m/

-ef

Posted Mar 8, 2005 6:28:39 PM | link

Durandal says:

I love this whole game comparasin aspect. Having played and mastered games such as Halo, Unreal Tournament, Time Crisis, and Ninja Gaiden (XBOX)and Metal Gear Solid, and played MMORPGS such as asherons call and most recently WOW I feel modestly qualified to express an opinion. we talk about skill, practice and smarts for single player games and how they have depth, etc. This is all peachy and happiness but you have to remember, that the grind aspect still exists in these games, (what else do you call attempting to destroy the Hind D nine times in one session which totally kills your ranking)

Add to that the fact that Mr. Snake gets more health as he advances through something called a "level" (the same holds true for xbox ninja gaiden) There are still others who would say games such as Unreal Tournament are not a test of skill but merely a button mashers paradise. your MMORPGs will never recieve such critcism.

Also taking into account that for games such as halo, and my first true gaming addiction Marathon2 (the founding father of Halo)
You practice alot to achive depth of content in order to be clever once. I mean once you beat all the scenarios thrown at you in halo or any other one play game, what is there?? a new game? a sequel? whereas with MMORPG you are constantly having to adjust your own skills and abilites, vs bigger stronger and sometimes mildly psychotic opponents (i.e. player vs player which admitedly some but not all one players have.) Dont get me wrong, Im not taking away from the advantages of the one player. the fact that kids can plug in to a one player without their parents worrying about who they are playing with is just one factor.
one players also offer that sense of finality and climax when you finish the game. (mmorpgs only offer this in small doses when you finish a massive quest. (for asherons call it was killing the olthoi queen, for WOW I think vancleef is the first massive group quest you get that elicits this emotional response.)

But I really think it is unfair to both MMORPGS and one player platform games to compare the two, they arent even in the same class, and which is better in the end really depends on who is playing and what they are looking for in the gameing experience.

Posted Jun 4, 2005 12:25:31 PM | link

freeastrology says:

good
http://www.freeastrology.us/

Posted Oct 30, 2006 3:18:45 PM | link

skin care says:

best
http://www.skincareinfo.us/

Posted Oct 30, 2006 3:19:44 PM | link